The Little Colonel's Hero, Chapter 5: The Red Cross Of Geneva

THE LITTLE COLONEL'S HERO
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Published 1902
Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

 

 

 

CHAPTER V
THE RED CROSS OF GENEVA

A WEEK after the runaway the handsomest collar that could be bought in town was fastened around Hero's neck. It had taken along time to get it, for Mr. Sherman went to many shops before he found material that he considered good enough for the rescuer of his little daughter. Then the jeweller had to keep it several days while he engraved an inscription on the gold name-plate --- an inscription that all who read might know what happened on a certain July day in the old Swiss town of Geneva. On the under side of the collar was a stout link like the one on his old one, to which the flask could be fastened when he was harnessed for service, and on the upper side, finely wrought in enamel, was a red cross on a white square.

"Papa Jack!" exclaimed Lloyd, examining it with interest, "that is the same design that is on his blanket and shouldah-bags. Why, it's just like the Swiss flag!" she cried, looking out at the banner floating from the pier. "Only the colours are turned around. The flag has a white cross on a red ground, and this is a red cross on a white ground. Why did you have it put on the collah, Papa Jack? "

"Because he is a Red Cross dog," answered her father.

"No, Papa jack. Excuse me for contradictin', but the Majah said he was a St. Bernard dog."

Mr. Sherman laughed, but before he could explain he was called to the office to answer a telegram. When he returned Lloyd had disappeared to find the Major, and ask about the symbol on the collar. She found him in his,favourite seat near the fountain, in the shady courtyard. Perching on a bench near by with Hero for a foot-stool, she asked, "Majah, is Hero a St. Bernard or a Red Cross dog?"

"He is both," answered the Major, smiling at her puzzled expression. "He is the first because he belongs to that family of dogs, and he is the second because he was adopted by the Red Cross Association, and trained for its service. You know what that is, of course."

Still Lloyd looked puzzled. She shook her head. "No, I nevah heard of it. Is it something Swiss or French?"

"Never heard of it!" repeated the Major. He spoke in such a surprised tone that his voice sounded gruff and loud, and Lloyd almost jumped. The harshness was so unexpected.

"Think again, child," he said, sternly. "Surely you have been told, at least, of your brave country-woman who is at the head of the organisation in America, who nursed not only the wounded of your own land, but followed the Red Cross of mercy on many foreign battle-fields!"

"Oh, a hospital nurse!" said Lloyd, wrinkling her forehead and trying to think. "Miss Alcott was one. Everybody knows about her, and her 'Hospital Sketches' are lovely."

"No! no!" exclaimed the Major, impatiently. Lloyd, feeling from his tone that ignorance on this subject was something he could not excuse, tried again.

"I've heard of Florence Nightingale. In one of my books at home, a Chatterbox, I think, there is a picture of her going through a hospital ward. Mothah told me how good she was to the soldiers, and how they loved her. They even kissed her shadow on the wall as she passed. They were so grateful."

"I Ah, yes," murmured the old man. "Florence Nightingale will live long in song and story. An angel of mercy she was, through all the horrors of the Crimean War; but she was an English woman, my dear. The one I mean is an American, and her name ought to go down in history with the bravest of its patriots and the most honoured of its benefactors. I learned to know her first in that long siege at Strasburg. She nursed me there, and I have followed her career with grateful interest ever since, noting with admiration all that she has done for her country and humanity the world over.

"If America ever writes a woman's name in her temple of fame, liebes Mädchen  (I say it with uncovered head), that one should be the name of Clara Barton."

The old soldier lifted his hat as he spoke, and replaced it so solemnly that Lloyd felt very uncomfortable, as if she were in some way to blame for not knowing and admiring this Red Cross nurse of whom she had never heard. Her face flushed, and much embarrassed, she drew the toe of her slipper along Hero's back, answering, in an abused tone:

"But, Majah, how could I be expected to know anything about her? There is nothing in ou' schoolbooks, and nobody told me, and Papa Jack won't let me read the newspapahs, they're so full of horrible murdahs and things. So how could I evah find out?  I couldn't learn everything in twelve yeahs, and that's all the longah I've lived."

The Major laughed. "Forgive me, little one!" he cried, seeing the distress and embarrassment in her face. "A thousand pardons! The fault is not yours, but your country's, that it has not taught its children to honour its benefactor as she deserves. I am glad that it has been given to me to tell you the story of one of the most beautiful things that ever Happened in Switzerland --- the founding of the Red Cross You will remember it with greater interest, I am sure, because, while I talk, the cross of the Swiss flag floats over us, and it was here in this old town of Geneva the merciful work had its beginning."

Lloyd settled herself to listen, still stroking Hero's back with her slipper toe.

"He was my friend, Henri Durant, and in the old days of chivalry they would have made him knight for the noble thought that sprang to flower in his heart and to fruitage in so worthy a deed. He was travelling in Italy years ago, and happening to be near the place where the battle of Solferino was fought, he was so touched by the sufferings of the wounded that he stopped to help care for them in the hospitals. The sights he saw there were horrible. The wounded men could not be cared for properly. They died by the hundreds, because there were not enough nurses and surgeons and food.

"It moved him to write a book which was translated into several languages. People of many countries became interested and were aroused to a desire to do something, to relieve the deadly consequences of war. Then he called a meeting of all the nations of Europe. That was over thirty years ago. Sixteen of the great powers sent men to represent them. They met here in Geneva and signed a treaty. One by one other countries followed their example, until now forty governments are pledged to keep the promises of the Red Cross.

"They chose that as their flag in compliment to Switzerland, where the movement was started. You see they are the same except that the colours are reversed.

"Now, according to that treaty, wherever the Red Cross goes, on sea or on land, it means peace and safety for the wounded soldiers. In the midst of the bloodiest battle, no matter who is hurt, Turk or Russian, Japanese or Spaniard, Armenian or Arab, he is bound to be protected and cared for. No nurse, surgeon, or ambulance bearing that Red Cross can be fired upon. They are allowed to pass wherever they are needed.

"Before the nations joined in that treaty, the worst horror of war was the fate of a wounded soldier, falling into the hands of the enemy. Better a thousand times to be killed in battle, than to be taken prisoner. Think of being left, bleeding and faint, on an enemy's field till your clothes froze to the ground, and no one merciful enough to give you a crust of bread or a drop of water. Think of the dying piled with the dead and left to the pitiless rays of a scorching, tropic sun. That can never happen again, thank Heaven!

"In time of peace, money and supplies are gathered and stored by each country, ready for use at the first signal of war. To show her approval, the empress became the head of the branch in Germany Soon after the Franco-Prussian war began, and then her only daughter, the Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, turned all her beautiful castles into Military hospitals, and went herself to superintend the work of relief.

"Your country did not join with us at first. You were having ,a terrible war at home; the one in which your grandfather fought. All this time Clara Barton was with the soldiers on their bloodiest battle-fields. When you go home, ask your grandfather about the battles of Bull Run and Antietam, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness. She was there. She stood the strain of nursing in sixteen such awful places, going from cot to cot among the thousands of wounded, comforting the dying, and dragging many a man back from the very grave by her untiring, unselfish devotion.

"When the war was over, she spent four years searching for the soldiers reported missing. Hundreds and hundreds of pitiful letters came to her, giving name, regiment, and company of some son or husband or brother, who had marched away to the wars and never returned. These names could not be found among the lists of the killed. They were simply reported as 'missing'; whether dead or a deserter, no one could tell. She had spent weeks at Andersonville the summer after the war, identifying and marking the graves there. She marked over twelve thousand. So when these letters came imploring her aid, she began the search, visiting the old prisons, and trenches and hospitals until she removed from twenty thousand names the possible suspicion that the men who bore them had been deserters.

"No wonder that she came to Europe completely broken down in health, so exhausted by her long, severe labours that her physicians told her she must rest several years. But hardly was she settled here in Switzerland when the Franco-Prussian war broke out, and the Red Cross sought her aid, knowing how valuable her long experience in nursing would be to them. She could not refuse their appeals, and once more started in the wake of powder smoke, and cannon's roar.
"But I'll not start on that chapter of her life, liebes Mädchen. I would not know where to stop. It was there I met her, there she nursed me back to life; then I learned to appreciate her devotion to the cause of humankind. This second long siege against suffering made her an invalid for many years.

"The other nations wondered why America refused to join them in their humane work. All other civilised countries were willing to lend a hand. But Clara Barton knew that it was because the people were ignorant of its real purpose that they did not join the alliance, and she promised that she would devote the remainder of her life, if need be, to showing America that as long as she refused to sign that treaty, she was standing on a level with barbarous and heathen countries.

"For years she was too ill to push the work she had set for herself. When her strength at last returned, she had to learn to walk. At last, however, she succeeded. America signed the treaty. Then, through her efforts, the American National Red Cross was organised. She was made president of it. While no war, until lately, has called for its services, the Red Cross has found plenty to do in times of great national calamities. You have had terrible fires and floods, cyclones, and scourges of yellow fever. Then too, it has taken relief to Turkey and lately has found work in Cuba.
" I know that you would like to look into Miss Barton's jewelbox. Old Emperor William himself gave her the Iron Cross of Prussia. The Grand Duke and Duchess of Baden sent her the Gold Cross of Remembrance. Medals and decorations from many sovereigns are there--- the Queen of Servia, the Sultan of Turkey, the Prince of Armenia. Never has any American woman been so loved and honoured abroad, and never has an American woman been more worthy of respect at home. It must be a great joy to her now, as she sits in the evening of life, to count her jewels of remembrance, and feel that she has done so much to win the gratitude of her fellow creatures.

"You came to visit Switzerland because it is the home of many heroes; but let me tell you, my child, this little republic has more to show the world than its William Tell chapels and its Lion of Lucerne. As long as the old town of Geneva stands, the world will not forget that here was given a universal banner of peace, and here was signed its greatest treaty --- the treaty of the Red Cross."

As the Major stopped, the Little Colonel looked up at the white cross floating above the pier, and then down at the red one on Hero's collar, and drew a long breath.

"I wish I could do something like that!" she exclaimed, earnestly. "I used to wish that I could go out like Joan of Arc to do some great thing that would make people write books about me, and carve me on statues, and paint pictures and sing songs in my honah, but I believe that now I'd rathah do something bettah than ride off to battle on a prancin' white chargah. Thank you, Majah, for tellin' me the story. I'm goin' for a walk now. May I take Hero?"

A few minutes later the two were wandering along beside the water together, the Little Colonel dreaming, day-dreams of valiant deeds that she might do some day, so that kings would send her a Gold Cross of Remembrance, and men would say with uncovered heads, as the old Major had done, "If America ever writes a woman's name in her temple of fame, that one should be the name of Lloyd Sherman ---The Little Colonel!"

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